Just after Thanksgiving 2016, my mother called me in tears. She was worried about her mother, my grandmother. She calmed down long enough to tell me she just had a conversation with my grandma but something was off . They had their normal conversation and about half way through, my grandmother was rushing to get off the phone, but in an awkward way. When my mother called back again it was like the first conversation never happened. I was over due for a drive into the city and my mother had a trip planned to visit my grandmother anyway. So the following weekend I drove down from Pennsylvania, while my mom flew in from Miami.
When we arrived, all of our fears came to light.
She knew who we were and where she was but you could see in her eyes that every so often that knowledge would disappear. After much deliberation, we finally decided that grandma would come stay with me. I was closer to NYC so we could still come see relatives. I couldn’t drive up with her that same weekend, so my mom stayed behind packing up her studio apartment, and getting her ready for the move. I decided I would take the Amtrak up on Dec 10th and rent a u haul truck to bring her and her belongings back.
But my train ride there was met with more worry. While on the train, my mom called me to tell me grandma was in the hospital. The guilt hit us both hard me not being able to come up sooner and her just leaving a few days prior to take care of my younger siblings. Once I arrived to NYC, I headed straight to her apartment. I had a key so I just let myself in. I noticed most of the boxes my mother had packed were all open in a disarray. My heart sunk and I headed to the hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital the staff was relived to see me. They knew so little information because she wasn’t communicating well even with an interpreter. Which confused me because she was fluent in both English and Spanish. As I walked into the room she perked right up smiling and was so excited to see me. The doctor and nurses looked stunned. This wasn’t the same patient they had earlier. She began to explain to the hospital staff who I was and about my children. I looked over at the doctor and asked why was she there, they explained she came in with a fever and were keeping her under observation to ensure she didn’t come down with Pneumonia. I explained to the doctor that I had just come down to bring her home with me.
Though she wasn’t formally diagnosed at that point, we still realized she couldn’t live alone.
The doctor agreed if she was better by Sunday, I could pick her up and take her with me. Since it was already late and visiting hours were over, I headed to her house to start packing. While going through her things I realized that she was becoming a bit of a hoarder. I started feeling guilty as soon as the realization set. How did I not see the signs sooner? I packed well into the night and at 7 am, her friends stopped by to see if she was back home. They were the ones who noticed she was sick and took her to the hospital. I told them I was here to take her with me to PA. I made a group of old women cry like children. They had lived in this building together for well over 10 years. They scheduled all the doctors appointments together and did all the food shopping together as one. And that’s when I realized something kind of beautiful.
I never noticed there was anything wrong because she had the best friends taking care of her.
It was beautiful and sad at the same time. Obviously, I’m glad she had people she could count on when I wasn’t there for her. But because they were, I didn’t realize how much I was needed. I’m just grateful it was only a fever that sent her to the hospital. Her friends helped me pack and throw out garbage till it was time for me to head back to the hospital.
At the hospital, grandma was getting better but she was surprised to see me each time.
She didn’t remember I had been there the night before or about the plans we’s discussed. We went over it together and spent the day taking snap chat selfie til it was night again. The next morning my cousin and Ex-Husband (of all people!) showed up and helped me rent a U-haul truck and together we loaded the truck to the brim. Once we were done I thanked them both a hundred times and headed to the hospital in the U-haul truck. It was Sunday and I had picked out a nice outfit for her so she could be nice and clean for our 3 1/2 hour trek back to her new home. As soon as I got to her room her eyes brightened up. She still didn’t remember we were leaving but not even that could bring me down. I spoke to the nurse about a time of release for my lady and she told me the doctor still hadn’t decided if she would be released that day. She still had a low level fever and he didn’t feel comfortable sending her home.
Once the doctor arrived we received the unfortunate news she wouldn’t be going home with me that day. Although her fever was all gone they wanted to make sure she it wouldn’t rise again. I had a 21 foot U-haul truck parallel parked in a busy Bronx street on Grand Concourse and now we weren’t going home. I was beyond frustrated at that point. I had kids at home and work with the next day I wouldn’t make it back for either. We spent the day together talking, hanging out and calling everyone we knew. When it was time for me to go, I promised I would be back in the morning. I’d already turned in the keys for her apartment, so I slept on my cousin’s couch for the night.
I couldn’t sleep a wink worrying about her.
I woke up at 7 am the next day and spent the day trying to convince every doctor and nurse I could find to let us go. By 3 pm the doctor said if we wanted to go home we had to sign a refusal of care waiver. So after talking to my mom, aunt and uncle we decided it was time we headed to PA. So I signed her out and grandma was free. Once dressed, and out the hospital she was a different person. She was surprised and excited when she saw the truck. She couldn’t believe all that I had done in the short time she was in the hospital. But we laughed about the weekend we’d had and we literally drove off into the sun set.
Things since then have not been easy but everyday we learn something new. She’d rather snack then eat a meal. She is the cleanest person in the house, 2 showers a day on a regular day, 3 or more if its hot out. Music fills her spirits, she still loves to dance and wont ever skip a beat. Bringing her into my home has been a joy and I have never once regretted it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my grandma (and it wont be the last). A beautiful soul by the name of Dawn allowed me to contribute a piece on her blog so if you want to read that head over to The Divine Life Blog.
Thank you to My amazing friend Jenny for always making sure my grammar is better then it really is.